By all appearances it seems the US and ROK governments pushed ahead with the installation of the THAAD missile defense system before the upcoming ROK presidential election though USFK is not commenting on this:
U.S. military vehicle moves past banners opposing a plan to deploy an advanced U.S. missile defense system called Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, as South Korean police officers stand guard in Seongju, South Korea, Wednesday, April 26, 2017. South Korea says key parts of a contentious U.S. missile defense system have been installed a day after rival North Korea showed off its military power. (Kim Jun-bum / AP)
The United States military started installing a controversial anti-missile defense system in South Korea overnight Tuesday, triggering protests and sparking criticism that it was rushing to get the battery in place before the likely election of a president who opposes it.
The sudden and unannounced move came only six days after U.S. Forces Korea secured the land to deploy the system, known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD.
Moon Jae-in, a liberal candidate who has a strong lead in the polls ahead of the May 9 presidential election, has promised to review South Korea’s decision to host the anti-missile battery.
“There’s a sense in Seoul that THAAD deployment has been rushed based on the timetable of South Korea’s presidential election, rather than North Korea’s threats,” said John Delury, a professor of international relations at Yonsei University in Seoul.
“To some extent, the acceleration of THAAD deployment has ‘worked,’ limiting the next South Korean leader’s room for maneuver,” Delury said. “But there’s the danger of a backlash among the South Korean public feeling like a pawn in the game of ‘America First.’ ”
U.S. Forces Korea did not make any statement about the deployment and did not immediately respond to a request for comment about why the installation was started in the dead of night. [Chicago Tribune]
You can read more at the link, but the real surprise is that people are surprised by this. USFK and the ROK government have been publicly signaling for months that the deployment will be accelerated.
Moon Jae-in is saying that the deployment decision should have been left up to the next government after reaching a national consensus.
“Moon Jae-in has been consistent in his position on the THAAD deployment: that must be decided by the next administration after enough public discussion and by national consensus,” Park Kwang-on said in a statement.
“Any deployment that completely ignores appropriate processes must be suspended now and the final decision should be made after consultation between South Korea and the U.S.” he said.
Anyway the US military did Mr. Moon a great favor because now when he likely becomes President he does not have to worry about this decision and can just blame the last government for allowing it to happen to appease his leftist base while getting the increased defense benefit against North Korea provided by THAAD.
Here is what was happening at the site as the equipment was rolling in:
In Seongju county, at the location of the THAAD site, around 4,000 police were present to ensure the equipment’s delivery. Around 400 protesters were present at a demonstration near the site, and police in riot gear held back protesters as the equipment rolled past on military trucks. Hwang Soo-young, an activist with the government watchdog group, the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD), was at the site of the protest Wednesday morning. She claimed that the protests turned violent as “police were pushing residents away.”
She claimed six people were injured during the encounter, although CNN has not been able to independently verify the claim. She said that vehicles with equipment “including radar, launchers and generators” started passing the village of Soseongri at around 4.45 a.m. (3.45 p.m. Tuesday ET). [CNN
You can read more at the link, but apparently the residents are upset that they did not know about the deployment of the vehicles to the site. Did they really think the US military would tell them when the equipment would drive to the site so they militant leftist groups that don’t live in Seongju could mobilize and block the road?
It will be interesting to see if the THAAD site in Seongju becomes a big cause for the Korean left to continue to protest or not over the coming months.